The issue of random alcohol and drug testing in the workplace has reared its head in Alberta again.
Earlier this year, Suncor decided to implement a new alcohol and drug policy that includes random testing for safety sensitive employees. The policy was to take effect on October 15, 2012 for Suncor employees and January 1, 2013 for contractors.
Approximately 85% of Suncor employees working in safety sensitive positions are union members, and the union filed a grievance about the policy. The union also obtained an injunction preventing Suncor from implementing the policy pending arbitration.
On appeal, a majority of the Alberta Court of Appeal upheld the injunction. The Court of Appeal released its written reasons this morning, which can be found here.
The majority found that the non-consensual taking of bodily fluids is a "substantial affront to an individual's privacy rights." The majority also found that Suncor had not presented sufficient evidence to justify the need for random testing pending arbitration.
The sole dissenting judge strongly disagreed. Justice Cote was of the view that "privately giving a urine sample to be tested for alcohol or drugs does not begin to equal death or dismemberment, or widowhood or becoming orphaned, by an accident." He also found that the various other potential risks resulting from substance impairment outweighed any possible privacy issues.
In light of the decision, Suncor has suspended the requirement that its contractors implement random testing.
The arbitration hearing starts on December 10, while on December 7, the Supreme Court of Canada is scheduled to hear argument in the Irving Oil case involving random alcohol testing. The resulting decisions will have significant implications for alcohol and drug testing in Alberta and across Canada.